Create a safe space for them to wrestle with spiritual doubts

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Every day is a new day for your sixth grader to discover who they really are. No phase has less consistency than sixth grade. Some sixth graders sleep with stuffed animals while others want to sleep with their cell phone. Most sixth graders are alternately one and then the other on any given day – or any given hour.

Your sixth grader is growing. You’ll likely notice this most in your grocery bill. So keep the pantry stocked.

When they are feeling dramatic, your sixth grader might constantly ask, “who cares?” During this year, it’s very common for there to be a lot of tears (both yours and theirs). It’s normal for doors to slam, drama to happen, hormones to soar, and friendships to break up. But amid all the ups and downs, in these changing tides of emotions, now is the time to lean in even more closely. When they push, it’s a chance to prove you can’t be pushed away. When they change, it’s a chance to prove you will love them consistently. When they break your trust, it’s a chance to prove you are someone who can be trusted. Don’t worry, the roller coaster you’re stepping into (or that you’ve already been on for a while) will flatten out eventually. Take heart, your child is in the process of becoming someone even more wonderful.

One of the best things you can do in this phase is provide them a safe place to wrestle with their doubts and questions (particularly about God, Jesus, and the Bible). Your sixth grader is transitioning from making your faith into something they own for themselves. This will require you to constantly remind yourself: “Don’t freak out.” Even if you don’t use words, your facial expressions and body language often communicate your true feelings. Be mindful of what you are communicating with your tone and body language.

When your sixth grader explains their new beliefs or starts to doubt what they’ve once held to be true, help them navigate their curiosity by seeking truth together. A faith wrestled with is a faith owned. Remember, it’s not doubt that’s toxic to our faith, but silence.


  • Physically: They need lots of food and need 9-11 hours of sleep each night. Girls begin out-pacing boys in development. Boys experience changes in height/weight with an increase in hormones. Girls go through puberty and experience hormone fluctuations.
  • Mentally: Your sixth grader is developing their worldview. They enjoy learning new skills and being challenged. They are just beginning to grasp abstract concepts (like justice). They have a growing ability to see the world from different perspectives and start to question the world around them. They can differentiate actions from motives and try to discern motives (though they frequently misinterpret them). Due to sudden brain growth, they experience forgetfulness.
  • Emotionally: Sixth graders often mask their emotions in order to fit in. They benefit from talking about what they are feeling and why. They struggle with decision making. They like to debate and argue more from emotion than logic. They may tell lies more than in any other phase.
  • Socially: They seek peer approval and conformity and continue to struggle with peer pressure. Sixth graders value non-parental adult influences and often display their worst behavior at home. They may have romantic interests and experiment with physical affection.


"Why should I believe you?"

In this phase of self-discovery, your sixth grader is figuring themselves out through challenging authority. By expressing doubts or criticisms, your sixth grader is uncovering what they believe to be true.


Purchase the Can I Ask That? student guide and leader guide and read/discuss it together with your sixth grader. The Can I Ask That? 2 student guide and leader guide is also available.

  • Provide a safe place for your child to ask questions and express doubts. Be a listener and supporter more than an advice-giver. As your role shifts from disciplinarian to coach, you’re creating a safe space for your child to freely share what they are processing.
  • Maximize car time with your child by asking genuinely curious, open-ended questions. This might include questions like “What current events are your friends talking about? What do you believe about that? What do you think about that celebrity/movie/TV show/billboard/etc.? Do you have an opinion on [insert controversial topic here]? What do you and your friends disagree about?” The subject matter can be deep (e.g. purpose in life) or trivial (e.g. how highways are designed). The point is that you are taking an interest in how they think and what they believe. You’re setting the stage for future conversations about important subjects every time you respect and honor their perspective on any topic.
  • Remain curious and reserve judgement/advice as much as possible. Celebrate questions and the open communication they are having with you. Be careful not to close that open communication with “freak out” type of reactions.